MANILA, Philippines - Senatorial candidate Teddy Casiño said the government should effectively address poverty in the country to end insurgency.
"Unless poverty, injustice, lack of development in countryside is addressed, movements to take up arms will continue," he said on ANC's Harapan 2013 forum Tuesday night.
Teddy Casiño, Bayan Muna partylist representative and senatorial candidate
He told fellow senatorial candidate Jun Magsaysay, who asked the question on solving insurgency, that the government should engage rebels in the peace process.
"Government should take pains to address poverty, lack of land and development in the countryside," the leftist lawmaker added.
He said poverty remains the most defining issue in the 2013 elections.
"Kahirapan. Kahit sabihing lumago ang ekonomiya, dumadami ang bilang ng mahihirap," he said.
Casiño also shrugged off labels calling him a "leftist" and a "communist."
"Hindi na ito bago. Mula noong ako'y naging aktibista, ang tawag sa iyo, rebelde," he said. "Basta ipinaglalaban mo ang interest ng mga malilit and you push for real reforms, ang tawag sa iyo kaliwa."
He said it is part of political realities in the country.
"If that's what they call it, then it's part of the territory. I would like our people to go beyond these labels," he added.
Casiño also explained that so-called leftwing partylist representatives joined the majority in lower House because it was a choice between supporting groups led by House Speaker Sonny Belmonte or former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
"Voting for the Speaker was a choice between a group led by Belmonte and Arroyo allies. Naturally, we went for Belmonte," he told fellow senatorial candidate Ernie Maceda.
He also said he and his allies accepted the pork barrel given to lawmakers to make good use of the money.
"Mabuti pang ibigay sa pagpapatayo ng paaralan kaysa sa treasury," he said.
Casiño, however, opposes realigning Senate bonuses and funds for other use.
"It has to stop. Better option for savings: ibalik sa National Treasury o gamitin next year," he said.